I’m Alice Kyyrö and I have been teaching for nine years. I work at Viherlaakso Upper Secondary School on the outskirts of Helsinki, where I teach Finnish and literature. I have been using digital books and learning platforms for a couple of years, but the coronavirus and the switch to remote learning really showed me what a crucial part of teaching a good digital platform is. My school has been using itslearning for two years and I’ve been sharing my experiences on Twitter and Facebook groups for teachers. That’s how I came to write this blog post.
The coronavirus situation remains quite bad near the capital of Finland where I work. All Finnish schools switched to remote learning from March to June 2020. We returned to our classrooms – then four months ago, upper secondary students reverted to studying remotely again. Fortunately, my school and colleagues have been innovative and forward-thinking for years. We used digital books and learning platforms long before the pandemic started. Before we chose the itslearning LMS, we evaluated several digital learning platforms. itslearning proved to be the most versatile and intuitive of them all.
Obviously, the overnight switch to remote learning was still quite ‘wild’ and required a lot of work, but I was really thankful that I had a lot of experience using a digital learning platform in every course and lesson, and that my students were used to using itslearning. I didn’t have to create a digital system from scratch and could focus on other things, like how to engage students during video lessons. With itslearning, it’s effortless to create assignments and keep my lessons interesting.
Pushing digital boundaries
The move to remote learning in Finland in the spring of 2020 has been called ”an overnight miracle” because it went as smoothly as was possible. It forced every teacher to utilize technology to some degree and to get comfortable with it. Turns out most teachers were able to use digital tools really well when they had to.
Even though my school had been using technology more than most other schools, the pandemic still pushed our boundaries, and it made me explore the features of itslearning even more. My students got more comfortable with digital tools as well, and they participate more during video classes now than they did last spring. For example, last fall when we were back in the classroom, we were supposed to have a debate but a student got sick the day before. The student suggested that he could participate from home through video conferencing. We wouldn’t have even considered that possibility before the pandemic.
Hybrid learning is a combination of in-school learning and digital course delivery. Our school practiced hybrid learning in January 2021, when seniors were allowed to return to the classroom to prepare for exams with their teachers. About a third of my students chose in-school learning and the rest chose remote. The remote lessons offered more independent exercises and assignments in itslearning. Those who chose remote learning were happy with the arrangement and they all worked actively in itslearning. None of them dropped the course.
I think secondary school teachers will probably incorporate hybrid learning to a greater extent in the future, for example, with the use of video lessons. Students might be able to join early Monday morning classes remotely from home (giving them more independence and a more relaxed start to the week).
Remote learning has also shown that some students with special needs and/or learning disabilities are able to focus more while studying at home where there are fewer distractions.
The future of digital learning
Finland is undergoing a curriculum change which encourages the creation of individual learning paths for students of various skill levels. This is much easier with digital books and learning platforms than with printed books. For example, in itslearning I can create an assignment that’s visible to some of the students, but not all. I can also create and attach several learning goals for each assignment and easily show students which goals they have already achieved.
As students progress at their own pace, it’s easier to follow who has done the exercises and assignments with itslearning (and digital books) than it was before we had all this technology. itslearning also has a tool to make Individual Learning Paths, which gives students a lot more ownership of their learning.
I think a lot more courses will be taught remotely after the pandemic. For example, our school district tries to offer a variety of foreign language classes (French, German, Spanish, Italian, etc.) at every school. Unfortunately, the groups are often very small, so those classes are removed first if we ever have budget cuts. Remote learning might solve that problem because students from different schools could attend the same class online.
Essential itslearning features
Here are some of the itslearning tools that I use in my teaching.
I use Pages to create customized and inviting front pages for every course. They usually display the course name and give information about course content, learning goals and the method of evaluation. I always add images of the writers we’ll be talking about, memes etc.
I use Plans to create a course schedule for students to follow. My Plans always have 5 columns:
- Date of the lesson
- Topic of the lesson (e.g. ”Minority languages in Finland” or ”Realism in literature”)
- A column where I list all the exercises we will do during the lesson, along with related links (to videos, articles etc.).
- A column where I link assignments and all the materials I use during the lesson (PowerPoint presentations, short stories, poems etc.)
- The fifth column is reserved for notes and reminders.
Here is an image of a course plan showing two lesson plans.
In addition to Plans, Assignments is one of the most important tools for me. It’s really versatile. Students can submit their answers as text, pictures, videos and audio files.
My students write a lot of essays and literary analyses. For each text I create an assignment that is used as a link for my students to submit their text responses.
I can easily divide students into groups, and they can submit group assignments and the smaller exercises we do during lessons. I also like the fact that students can submit anonymously and that I can create assignments that are only visible to the students I select.
itslearning makes it very easy to follow student progress. During remote learning I have used 360° Reports to check how active my students have been. If I see that someone hasn’t accessed materials or even visited our itslearning course page, it’s an indication that they might have some problems studying remotely.
This is an image of a 360° report showing how my students and I can follow their progress. This has been very useful during remote learning.
This is where my students and I see all the grades for each individual assignment they have submitted during the course. I use three different types of grading:
- Submitted (Suoritettu): Students who just have a dash in the image below haven’t submitted their work yet.
- Points: The fourth and fifth columns show assignments that are evaluated with points (maximum of 30 or 60 points).
- School grades: In Finland these range from 4 (fail) to 10 (excellent). The last two columns show assignments that are evaluated with school grades.
A few years ago, Finland underwent an additional curriculum change which incorporated interdisciplinary learning – a pedagogical strategy through which different subjects are combined under a common theme and co-taught. itslearning makes it a lot easier for teachers to collaborate on such courses. They can all add materials and assignments, update the course schedule, interact with students, view student submissions and do so much more together.
While digital books and learning platforms have changed the way I work, the core of my teaching has remained the same: My job is to help students find their strengths and the best way for individual students to study and learn. Great, practical digital tools like itslearning support that goal.
If you would like more information on hybrid learning with an LMS, join itsConvention 2021. The first 200 to sign up will get a free copy of our Hybrid Learning Handbook, which comes with a handy checklist.
Katso webinaaritallenne ”Lukion uusi opetussuunnitelma 2021”
Suomalainen opetusalan organisaatio ansaitsee maailman parhaat työvälineet. Webinaarissa näet, miten itslearning oppimisympäristö tukee uuden LOPS tavoitteiden toteutumista oppijalle, opettajalle ja rehtorille.
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